Everyone loves healthy air and healthy lungs—but few people truly appreciate it the way cyclists do. For people who love to bike, either competitively or just for fun, there is something almost sacred about cruising down a bike path enjoying the wind on your face and a deep inhale of crisp clean air in your lungs.
That's one reason why the American Lung Association's trek and cycling events have become a gathering place for a passionate and engaged community of cyclists and advocates alike. Earlier this year, we interviewed some of our cyclists on "Reasons Why I Ride," but today, as we look forward to the second part of our 2019 cycle season—and try to stay out of the heat (which often triggers unhealthy air)—we are excited to bring you a follow up blog on lessons learned. Here are our top 10 tips for trekkers and cyclists:
10. To train or not to train… it's really up to you
It's true, our cycle events can be intense, but that's not to say they are competitive. Most riders suggest some light training or practice, but our routes are designed for riders of all skill levels. In fact, many of our riders consider themselves beginners or are dealing with a variety of lung ailments that cause them to take each turn at their own pace.
The best tip for training came from Scott Cowger, a 35-year veteran of our Trek Across Maine (he's been riding with us since the very first year!): "Just get some time in the saddle. When your bike and your body are adapted to each other, it makes the ride more enjoyable." In recent years, Scott typically started light training for the Trek 4-6 weeks ahead of the event, but when he worked as a Maine legislator, he was lucky to get 1 or 2 days on his bike before the event kicked off. "You do what you can—and take it as fast or as slow as feels right to you. There is no pressure on the Trek!"
9. Pack light, we've got you covered
We often see people show up to our multi-day Treks with big back packs full of food and gear. You are welcome to bring whatever you'd like, but we make sure that all the rest stops are stocked with water, high-energy snacks, and everything you could need in the middle of a bike ride. Top recommended items from practiced Trekkers include: sunglasses, a light rain jacket, one or two of your favorite gels or energy bars for an emergency refuel, and whatever gear keeps you comfortable on the ride (like biking gloves or a cushioned seat).
8. Eyes on the road, but also on the sky, or the trees, or the coast…
Safety always comes first on our rides, but we'd be remiss if we didn't suggest looking up from the road when you can to take in the sights. Whether it be the along the coast of Cape Cod or through rolling hills of northern Illinois, our routes deliver some of the most beautiful sights in the country and soaking them in is part of the experience.
Ann Morrow, a leader for our training rides for Reach the Beach in Oregon, says, "Lift your head and look around. Keep a safe distance from the rider in front so you don't have to focus on their rear wheel. Look, listen and smell. It's therapeutic."
7. Experience the event, not just the ride
A big part of our cycle experiences is getting to know the community and enjoying the stops along the way. Make sure to find time at the rest stops or camps to introduce yourself to new friends, check out the vendors, and enjoy yourself!
We asked first-time Trek Across Maine rider Lizzie Baker what she plans to do differently next year. She said, "I will plan to stay in the dorms. This year we booked a hotel and then stayed in the dorms on the second night. I think it is better to stay where the action is! We really enjoyed our time at Tent City and the festivities."
6. The fight is easier when it's for a cause
Our cycling adventures are set up to accommodate riders of all ability and skill level – but one thing they all have in common is the desire to support the American Lung Association's mission to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research.
Some support that mission because they have personal experience or a connection to someone with lung disease. Others sign up because they want to be part of the fight for clean, healthy air, so that everyone can enjoy a long ride in the outdoors. And still others sign up to ride in memory of a loved one who left behind a wish or a prayer that other families would have more resources and more treatments to fight back against lung disease.
No matter what your story is, we are here to help you carry it. On the road, you are riding alongside people who understand, and who want to support you on your journey—and that makes the ride to the finish line just a little bit easier.
5. Don't be intimidated by the fundraising component
Over the course of the last 35 years, our cycling events have raised over $50 million for the American Lung Association. Those funds have gone to support research for lung cancer; advocacy for legislation that protects clean air and slows climate change; education and awareness campaigns in every corner of the country, and so much more.
When you decide to take on a Trek or bike event with the Lung Association, we encourage everyone to fundraise. We know asking for money can be uncomfortable, but one of the things that makes these events so worthwhile is that they support meaningful and lifesaving work. We are proud to have your support, and you should feel proud that the work you are doing is taking us one step closer to a world where more people can breathe easier.
4. Indulge your cheerleaders
Cycling is fun, but it's also hard work—and when news gets out that you've signed up for a day long or multi-day cycling event for the Lung Association, it's quite likely that your friends and family will be excited and proud of you! If they aren't into joining you as a teammate, suggest they volunteer so they can cheer you on along the route. Our volunteers are an integral part of our cycling events, and they know how to have a good time!
3. Promote your mates to TEAMmates
One of the best ways to get excited for a Trek is to grow your team. Whether you have a group of friends to who like to cycle or want to encourage family members or coworkers to join you, building a team can make everything from training to finish line a bit more fun. Plus, you never know who might benefit from a good long bike ride with someone that loves them.
Matt St Cyr is an extreme example of how to maximize that team spirit. He's been doing the Trek Across Maine with two of his daughters (now ages 12 and 14) on a triplet tandem bike for 5 years. He said, "Involving your kids makes the Trek a great bonding experience. It teaches them how to work together and the tandem bike really provides a unique perspective on what it means to be a team. It's not for everyone—but it is always a fun challenge for us."
2. It's your Trek, ride YOUR WAY
On the Trek, everyone makes the most of their own ride. That might mean focus and quiet reflection to some, and to others it could mean sporting matching team T-shirts, or tutus, or bike swag! Whatever makes the ride meaningful to you, is what makes it meaningful for us. If you have something special up your sleeve – like a plan to ride a unicycle or a tandem bike—let us know in advance. Your ride might help raise awareness for the Trek and for the Lung Association's mission.
Lizzie Baker walked away from her first Trek admiring riders who put it all on the line. She said "I think it is great to be fun and unique! There were so many people who jazzed up their helmets and their bikes. It was great to see so many teams wearing similar bike kits. The unicyclist and tandem riders made for great discussion topics!"
1. It's not about the destination, it's about the TREK.
The Trek isn't just one thing. It's a way to have fun, to get healthy, to take on a mission, and to heal. No one knows that better than our staff members who have helped organize and support these events.
Cathy Gidley, executive director of the American Lung Association in Oregon, and a lead for Reach the Beach Oregon said, "Cycling with the American Lung Association is an experience like no other. They are the Lung Association's mission in action. Riders participate for loved ones they have lost or those currently fighting lung disease. The riders raise huge amounts of money for the American Lung Association, but they stop and thank US for being there for their friends and family in their time of need. In Oregon, when riders ‘Reach the Beach' they place hundreds of flowers in the ocean in memory of people lost to lung disease. That tells the real story. We still have so much more to accomplish. Until then, we ride."
Kim Chamard, as one of the leads for the Trek Across Maine said, "These cycling events are more than just a bike ride. It is like a huge family reunion of people from all walks of life, shapes and sizes, and from all over the country (and even the globe) that come together to spend a weekend together with a common goal; to raise money and awareness for a great cause … with some delicious food and fun mixed in! Our cyclists and volunteers support each other in ways that are so inspiring and to see the relationships built over the course of a multi-day bike ride is really amazing. These people truly become like a part of one great big American Lung Association family and we wouldn't have it any other way.
Our upcoming fall Trek's include our Autumn Escape Bike Trek, along Cape Cod Massachusetts and the Reach the Beach event in Washington, starting from Lacey, Olympia, Elma or Cosmopolis and riding to Westport. There's still time to register, and now that you have all of our best practices—there is no reason not to sign up today!
Learn more at Lung.org/cycling-events.
Blog last updated: August 21, 2023